It feels like a very long time since Scotland’s cricketers were involved in a tournament which reverberated around the globe.
And it’s strange to be looking forward to Kyle Coetzer and his compatriots parading their talents in October and November: a time of the year when bats, balls and pads have normally been consigned to the loft or garage for those who participate in the summer sport.
Yet, in recent weeks, the Scots have quite literally been warming up for the ICC T20 World Cup in sweltering conditions thousands of miles away, where they have fared well in the World Cricket League and a series of practice matches in Dubai against their associate colleagues.
The results have been positive, the displays demonstrating the quality of such reliable and experienced performers as George Munsey, Kyle Coetzer, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, Richie Berrington, Mark Watt and Ally Evans.
But the rehearsals are almost over and the pressure will increase in the days ahead as Coetzer’s team prepare to tackle Bangladesh in their opening fixture next weekend in Oman. They’re in Group B of a round-robin preliminary format and will subsequently tackle the hosts and Papua New Guinea, with two of these four sides advancing to the main event and getting the opportunity to lock horns with the likes of England, India and Australia.
Munsey is a formidable talent
It promises to be a formidable challenge, given the sheer firepower of so many countries in the short version of the game, which has been evident from the regular pyrotechnics in the ongoing Indian Premier League.
And yet, while it’s probably best not to indulge in excessive optimism – this is Scotland we are talking about – there are reasons to suppose they can remind the ICC of the talent which was obvious when they famously defeated England at the Grange in Edinburgh three years ago.
For starters, it helps that they have been drawn in Group B rather than A, which features Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands and Namibia. That’s a tougher proposition than meeting Oman and PNG, both of whom have already been on the receiving end of defeats from Coetzer’s collective.
Neither should be taken lightly, but they are both eminently beatable and even Bangladesh should not be viewed as mission impossible. After all, this is a Scottish squad which is being bolstered by Josh Davey and Brad Wheal, both of whom have been in excellent form in white-ball cricket this summer.
These county luminaries will reinforce the bowling attack, alongside such stalwarts as Evans, Safyan Sharif and the spin duo, Watt and Hamza Tahir. And while Shane Burger and his coaching staff are rightly not looking any further than the opening contest, they recognise the potential in their line-up.
Munsey, for instance, has been praised by such knowledgeable figures as the former England batsman Jonathan Trott. He hits the ball many a mile, is adept at all the paddle sweeps and other improvised shots which have evolved on the T20 circuit and has no fear in his attitude to scoring runs rapidly.
Leask hit Wood into the crowd
Leask – one of several north-east personalities in the mix – entered the fray in Edinburgh in 2018 and immediately struck England Test star Mark Wood into the crowd. There was a bold swagger about it, just as there was with Coetzer and Matthew Cross’ opening salvo and Calum MacLeod’s imperious century, and these qualities will be required in the days ahead.
Because T20 is no place for caution or aversion to risk-taking. We saw that in 2016 when West Indian Carlos Brathwaite hit Ben Stokes for four consecutive 6s in the final to orchestrate a stunning climax and help the Caribbean team lift the trophy in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
Since then, the pyjama parties have spiralled at an astonishing rate, the controversial Hundred event has been introduced in England and Wales and more and more players are opting out of Test contention to focus on finessing their skills (and inflating their bank balances) in the T20 environment.
Purists may deprecate the trend, but the reality is that Scotland are granted a limited number of high-profile fixtures in the international schedule and they must seize these occasions to push their claims for greater exposure.
Burger, an effervescent, ebullient individual, is excited at the challenges ahead and why shouldn’t he be? If Group B goes to form, and the Scots finish second in the standings behind Bangladesh, they can look forward to matches with, yes, England on October 27, West Indies on October 29, South Africa on November 2 and Australia on November 4.
These are the sort of fixtures which will be screened live across the planet and watched by millions of aficionados. They are the Holy Grail for associate members and even though there is always the danger of bumping into Kieron Pollard or Aaron Finch, Jos Buttler or Quinton de Kock at their best, these are the incentives craved by Coetzer and his compatriots.
First things first, though. Let’s ensure they progress from the group stages. As we’ve discovered in other sports, that can often be easier said than done.
But I’m tipping the Scots to claim a major scalp at this tournament.